The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Latest Business Doctor advice from our members

by Matthew Hall, Press & PR Officer

The latest expert advice from our members:
  1. With money so tight, what are the least expensive ways to grow my business?
  2. Scenario planning - how best to navigate the recession
  3. In times like these, is it worth spending money on marketing?
  4. As a small company, what support can we offer to our employees in a redundancy situation?
  5. How can I reduce the impact of redundancies on my staff and business?
  6. How to do PR on a budget

Friday Guest Blog: Forging links with the Far East

by Dr Alan Gerrard

Last week I was delighted to welcome a top-level Chinese delegation to Trafford.

During their visit the delegates from Nanning signed a Memorandum of Economic Cooperation with Trafford Council and opened a liaison office for their city’s Chamber of Commerce. They have afforded me the honour of becoming the first Secretary of the Liaison Office.

They also had meetings with, Greater Manchester Chamber, the Chamber’s International Trade team, Manchester Solutions and MIDAS.

The delegation visited Trafford Park, Media City Visitors’ Centre and of course Manchester United where they also hosted a Reception one evening for key business leaders and politicians.
They were very impressed with what they saw and this visit has laid the basis for long-term links between Trafford and Nanning. A number of strategic actions and decisions were made, directed towards progressing trade and investment between us as well as identifying some more immediate business opportunities.

Despite the global downturn, it is still vital that we forge trade links with China. The Chinese economy has been growing at a fantastic rate and although this has slowed somewhat in the current economic climate, it still continues at an impressive rate.

Nanning is the capital city of Guangxi Province in Southern China. The city is an education and development hotbed, with eight further education centres. It has great economic importance as the gateway to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community.

The link with Guangxi began when I was invited by the United Nations in 2007 to give a keynote speech at a Global Investment Forum in the neighbouring city of Liuzhou. I was asked to talk about the evolution of Trafford Park, which is the oldest industrial estate in the world.

The Chinese officials were very interested to hear how Trafford Park had developed from heavy industry to the knowledge-based economy of today. They did me the honour of inviting me to sit with the senior members of the Chinese Provincial Government and Party officials at the various occasions surrounding the event.

It was an amazing experience for me. Not only did I meet some of the leading figures in the country, but I got to see its industry and meet everyday people at first hand. Almost everybody I met wanted to practice their English with me. We were taken on tours of the factories over there, which were very impressive. There was nothing third world about the facilities; they were world-class.

My visit was followed last year by a Greater Manchester Chamber delegation to Nanning and to the annual ASEAN Exposition led by Dr. Lee Kai Hung, Chairman of the Northwest Chinese Council.

I was one of the members of this delegation and gave several presentations on Manchester and the Chamber to visiting dignitaries and government officials of both China and the ASEAN countries. We also met business people to discuss the opportunities Greater Manchester holds for this rapidly developing market and vice versa.

This visit led to the idea of Nanning signing a Memorandum of Economic Cooperation and opening a liaison office in Trafford, which has now been achieved.

The visit was very important for Trafford. There are great opportunities in China for local businesses. Often China is seen as a threat to British industry, but it is also a great opportunity. There is huge demand for the high-tech skills that our companies can provide.

I would urge Trafford businesses to make use of the link we now have with Nanning and I look forward to seeing how this link will develop in the years ahead.

About Dr Alan Gerrard

Dr Gerrard has lived in Trafford practically all of his life and has enjoyed an international career, based out of Trafford Park. He is still actively involved in its business community. He is a former Chairman of both Trafford Local Chamber Council and Trafford Business Park Forum, which merged with the Chamber in 2005.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

North West Wages and Benefits Survey - take part and compare...

by Ilona Krohn, Prinicpal Economic Advisor

GM Chamber is combining forces with other Chambers across the North West to launch the third North West Wages and Benefits Survey.

The purpose of the survey is to provide Chamber members, other local companies, and inward investors with an up to date picture of basic salaries, hourly rates, and employee benefits across a range of industry sectors in the North West. This annual survey allows you to monitor trends in your own industry sector as well as benchmarking your own company's pay and benefits package against the industry average.

The first half of the survey covers employee benefits whilst the second part deals with pay rates. We have selected the industry sectors on the basis of their importance to the North West economy and because they also contain distinctive and sector specific occupations. Some occupations are generic across all sectors and we've added these to each sector as appropriate.

The section on pay rates is divided in to 4 main categories:

1. Engineering, Manufacturing & Construction (hourly rate)
2. Clerical (hourly rate)
3. Professional & Managerial (annual salary)
4. Retail & Tourism (hourly rate)

We want this survey to become respected as the leading and most influential survey of its kind in the North West. But for this to happen we need as many of you as possible to complete the survey because the more responses we get, the more meaningful the results.

Click here to access the survey

Please navigate the survey via the ‘next' and ‘back' buttons. Your response will not be saved unless you press the ‘done' button at the end.

Complete confidentiality for all respondents is, of course, assured. Indeed we will only need your details if you would like to receive a free copy of the report. However, we do ask that you state which Chamber of Commerce you are a member of.

The deadline for responses is Wednesday 19th August 2009.

Copies of the final report will be available in September. Thanks for taking part!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Swine Flu Survey

by Holly Keogh, Assistant Policy Manager

In response to the current Swine Flu situation, we have produced a short one-page survey to find out how prepared you feel your business is and how you feel the situation has been handled so far.

The survey is anonymous and should only take a minute or two.

Click here to complete the survey

Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Swine Flu - BCC webinar and microsite for business

The British Chambers of Commerce held a webinar with its members and Dr Laurence Buckman, the Chairman of the BMA's GPs Committee this morning . They were also joined by representatives from two businesses - Robert Stead and Sue Hill - who discussed how their businesses are coping with the crisis.

For those who missed the webinar this can be watched by clicking here.

A dedicated microsite on the British Chambers of Commerce website www.britishchambers.org.uk/swine-flu-microsite also contains a whole host of useful information and advice for businesses including a number of case studies explaining what other businesses are doing to protect employees and contingency plans in place.

Briefed: the latest news from the Chamber website

BCC: Chancellor must keep pressure on banks to lend
Commenting on today's meeting between the Chancellor and bank bosses, which will discuss lending to small businesses, David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said...

Pick up a pocket-guide to Metrolink replacement bus services
Metrolink passengers can now pick up a handy pocket-sized guide to the replacement bus services that will run on the Altrincham and Eccles lines and in the city centre during August.

Healey kickstarts work on 22,400 homes
Housing Minister John Healey today announced that 270 stalled development projects across the country have been shortlisted for a share of £925m which could help get building work on 22,400 homes back on track and create 20,000 jobs.

Chamber News: Debt Advisory Service launched
Greater Manchester Chamber has launched a debt advisory service to help businesses hit by the downturn. The service will be available to all businesses with fewer than 250 employees across Greater Manchester.

Member News: Cuckoo Design kick off Bury F.C. partnership
Cuckoo Design, one of the leading Manchester creative agencies, is once again showing its commitment to the region, this time by sponsoring Bury Football Club.

Chamber launches new Sales Academy
Greater Manchester Chamber has launched a new sales academy to help businesses improve their selling techniques during the downturn. The new academy, which is being run by Business Support Solutions (BSS), shows how companies can get every member of staff involved in the sales process.

Member News: SKV launches UK’s first weather webcast for Blackpool
SKV Communications is keeping Blackpool tourism in the news by launching a daily weather forecast directly from the resort. Hosted on YouTube, the reports are provided by characters including contortionists, magicians, clowns and even a diver who will give his report from the SEALife Centre.

Bury ‘rocks’ says British Retail Consortium report
Bury has been highlighted in a national report setting out a rescue plan for Britain’s struggling high streets by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Member News: Pure Gym offer discount pre-opening offer of £9.99 for Spinningfields branch
Former bosses of the Golden Tulip Chain have recently announced the launch their latest venture Pure Gym, a no-frills gym chain which will have its first branch in Spinningfields in Manchester city centre.

Member News: UKFast to launch the next big ecommerce stars
UKFast has launched a competition to find the next big online superstars, pledging to provide £15k of funding for each successful applicant to support their business projects.

Prime Minister launches new scheme to get more people volunteering during the recession
The National Talent Bank is part of the Government's comprehensive approach to tackling the recession and is designed to ‘share the talent' between the private, public and third sector.

Chinese Visit to Forge Trade Links
A top-level Chinese delegation made a visit to Trafford last week to forge closer trade links. Dr Alan Gerrard (pictured right) of Greater Manchester Chamber, who helped organise the visit, said: "Despite the global downturn, it is still vital that we forge trade links with China.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Friday Guest Blog: 7 Pillars of Sporting Success... and how to apply them in business

by Andrew Thorp, Business speaker and trainer

What can we learn from the success of Federer at Wimbledon, the dominance of Tiger Woods and the ups and downs of English cricket? People have drawn parallels between sport and business for years but their focus has mostly been on teamwork and motivation. These are important but I’ve tried to look for some deeper connections between these two worlds to provide some practical tips for business leaders.

I've highlighted 7 such connections:

  • performance
  • organisation
  • focus
  • skill development
  • leadership
  • partnerships
  • the mental game

This is the basis of an 80 page guide I've written aimed at businesses large and small. The basic premise of '7 Pillars...' is that by embracing competition, extolling the virtues of developing potential and highlighting the role of psychology in performance, sport can teach us valuable lessons. Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope tactic during his fight against George Foreman in 1974 was a brave strategy but the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ showed Ali’s tremendous self-belief in the face of doubters. Or take Jonny Wilkinson, he visualises his outcome before he executes a penalty kick. Top athletes work hard to develop new skills whereas most businesses expect employees to learn how to sell by attending a seminar!

The recession has made things more competitive and some players face relegation. But that creates an opportunity for those willing to adapt and outwit the opposition.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the book:

On our attitude to training
Many years ago, a young American footballer complained to one of his team mates that the coach was forever on his back, always giving him a hard time. His colleague replied that the only reason the coach was on the boy’s case was that he thought he had some potential. If he didn’t feel you had something, he’d just ignore you.

The point is that it’s a huge compliment to have a company want to invest in you. They see some potential. You should embrace it. Develop a thirst for learning and a curiosity to learn about yourself and your capabilities.

On the importance of ‘focus’
Roger Federer doesn’t book his own flights, accommodation, car hire and travel insurance. He’s far too busy doing what he gets paid for – playing tennis! This is where he creates VALUE and in business you’ve got to look at it the same way. It’s a common problem faced by people who excel at something (sculpture, baking bread, photography, design) and decide to go into business. Soon enough you’re burdened with accounts, insurance, health & safety, telephone systems and employment law. Or you might decide to cut costs by getting rid of the contract cleaner and doing the work yourself.

All these things distract you from the value-producing element of what you do. It’s something the time management consultants remind us to ask ourselves – is this the best use of my time, right now?

Conclusion
I think there’s much that we can take from pro sport, a world that:

  • embraces competition and takes seriously the view that we’re performing in front of an audience
  • extols the virtues of developing people, of nurturing talent and of recognising the value of skills
  • accepts that whatever raw talent and skills we have, we’ll never perform at our best without the right mind-set

Andrew Thorpe is a former Ryder Cup referee, now a business speaker and communication skills trainer based in Macclesfield, Cheshire. Copies of The 7 Pillars of Sporting Success: and how to apply them in business are priced at £4.99 and are available direct from the author.

Andrew Thorp
Mob: 07968 083376
enquiries@andrewthorp.co.uk

Monday, 20 July 2009

Briefed: the latest news from the Chamber website

Wigan Business Awards - nominations deadline approaching!
The nominations deadline for this year's Wigan Business Awards is approaching... Last year, Angela Lucas (pictured right) of Holiday Getaway, based on Hallgate in Wigan town centre, won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award and this year has seen her business go from strength to strength.

Member News: PushON scoops major award
Manchester-based online marketing agency PushON is celebrating its win of ‘Best Use of Search' at this year's eagerly anticipated Big Chip Awards, which recognises digital excellence and new media outside London.

Unemployment in Greater Manchester has decreased slightly, according to figures released by the ONS...


Local firms are invited to find out about potential trading opportunities at a business networking event being organised by Greater Manchester Chamber in conjunction with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) .

Manchester City Council has appointed Smyth Harper, currently Acting Deputy Director of Communications at Greater Manchester Police (GMP), as Head of Media.


The first of Metrolink's brand new trams has arrived at the Manchester Queen's Road depot after a marathon journey from the manufacturing site in Vienna.


Companies and organisations throughout the UK are being urged to celebrate the importance of excellent customer service by taking part in National Customer Service Week - 5-11 October.


This booklet from the Department of Health explains how businesses can help reduce the spread of flu. it provides information to allow businesses to assess the types of measures that may be used in their particular occupational setting.


Chamber News: Cash in on energy savings with interest free loans
Smaller businesses can now take advantage of zero interest loans for energy efficiency thanks to changes announced by the Carbon Trust - helping more organisations to improve energy efficiency, cut energy bills and survive the recession.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Friday Guest Blog: Get going with your blog

by Nathan Smith, Managing Director, Smith & Smith PR

One of the biggest complaints about blogging is what do I write about? Having made the commitment to write a blog, a blogger can often feel pressure to write something that is not only informative but witty, original and strong enough that people are going to want to forward it on to friends and contacts. This is a big ask for anyone and taking this approach is likely to leave you exhausted and overwhelmed!

A great analogy of a blog is to think of it as your own newspaper. Can you imagine a bunch of journalists turning up every day without the slightest idea of what they may write about in terms of the general subject or area? No, of course not. That’s because newspapers have hundreds of years behind them in terms of structure, direction, focus and just having a feel for what makes news and what people find interesting.

My suggestion is that bloggers can greatly benefit from this approach. Instead of sitting there waiting to be inspired, get a structure that gives you that direction. Below are some suggested categories that you may want to consider adopting to help you enter the blogging world. There is no doubt that once you begin blogging, your style and subject matter will evolve and you will find a structure that reflects your strengths. You will also have the benefit of listening to the rest of the blogosphere for feedback on your posts, learning that certain subjects will provoke more reaction, more laughs or maybe more criticism.

1 An original article
I believe this kind of post would make up the core of your blogs; it’s your original thoughts, comments and observations. Of course, as this is the most important it’s also the post that causes the most anxiety and is usually followed by the comment: ‘But I don’t have any original thoughts!’ Of course you do, it just takes a certain amount of self awareness to recognise this. Here are 10 examples that I bet any one of you could pick and write about. Why not write your own list until you become confident and self aware of what makes a great article?

  • A good client, a bad client
  • I’ve learnt something new
  • How to recover from making a mistake
  • My client’s industry is really interesting because…
  • That company always appears to be different and stands out
  • The best meetings are always...
  • 5 ways to maximising a client’s time
  • Client expectations – how to make it work from the start
  • Things I’ll do differently tomorrow
  • Where I get my news

2 The Review
Being a critic and writing reviews is essential for any good blogger. A blog allows you to link directly to the subject you’re reviewing, which gives your review real depth and also demonstrates some of the relationships that exist in the blogosphere. Secondly, remember you have a following to keep updated, entertained and informed. If I’m following someone’s blog who writes thoughts and observations on food and drink then I’d probably also like to read their thoughts on a new restaurant that’s opened or any new books that may be coming out on that subject.

3 The Resource
Similar to the ‘review’, the resource blog is written with the reader firmly in mind. In terms of my business, I want the reader to come to our blog whenever they want to find out about something in PR. Let me give you some examples of what I mean by this: Think about your working day and what resources you use to go about your job… it may be a book on the shelf that you always turn to whenever you’re writing a case study or it may be a tip someone told you once about using the telephone and has always stuck with you. It may even be a website or a piece of software that is integral to your working day. In fact when you start to write down all your own resources you’ll be amazed at just how much stuff you know. Well all of this stuff is valuable, and valuable to your blog readers, so start to share it and begin a process of sharing best practice.

4 Market Research / Feedback
Have you ever written a piece of policy or been asked to carry out a project you’re not sure where to start with? Well start to think about your blog readers as part of your ‘fan club.’ What I mean by this is that people will help you if you ask. The blogosphere is an incredible place when it comes to sharing and helping, in fact it’s Utopian compared to the offline world!

5 Recycle
I don’t mean recycle your blog posts but there will be plenty of things that you do as part of your day to day job that could easily be recycled to make great blog posts. In fact this article is a great example; I originally wrote this to help the team at Smith & Smith really think about blogging but what a waste it would be to just use it for internal use, especially as I hope it could help other people.

Well that’s it. No more excuses, you should be armed with plenty to go forward now and blog away. Of course as I said in the introduction this is only meant as a guide to give you confidence to go forward. There is no doubt that the best blogs are the ones that have been allowed to evolve over time.

Nathan Smith MSc
Managing Director
Smith & Smith PR Limited
www.smithandsmithpr.co.uk
Tel: 0161 236 5560

Follow Nathan on Twitter @nathanjsmith

Nathan recently held a free Social Media Masterclass for Chamber members. Click here to find out more about how the Chamber can help with PR including some upcoming events...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

City Region Status - free forum & panel debate

by Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Exec.

The issue of City Region status has received widespread press coverage recently, including the Chancellor's Budget, but does everybody understand what it actually is?


City Region status will drive the direction for Greater Manchester over the next few years so is a crucial part of the development for the region.


If your business is based in Greater Manchester or you have any interest in the future development of the city region and the opportunities for your business you need to attend this event.

Venue: The Buckingham Suite, The Palace Hotel, Oxford Road, Manchester
Time: 11.45am - 1.30pm (lunch provided)
Date: Wednesday 22nd July 2009

Panelists
  • Dermot Finch, Director of Centre for Cities
  • Lord Peter Smith, Leader of Wigan Council & Chair of AGMA
  • Angie Robinson, CEO of GM Chamber
  • Peter Heginbotham, President of GM Chamber

Questions for discussion
Greater financial autonomy and political devolution are on the cards for Greater Manchester. How will this affect your business? What influence will business have? How can businesses maximise economic prosperity, innovation and success in Greater Manchester?

Join us for a panel debate hosted by Michael Taylor, Editor of Insider Magazine and put your questions to some of the experts on City Region status.


To register please email your name, company, email address & telephone number to actionforbusiness@gmchamber.co.uk as soon as possible as places are limited. If you would like to submit a question in advance of the meeting please include this in your email.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Unemployment figures decrease slightly

by Samantha Dunbar, Policy Manager for Employment & Skills
Unemployment in Greater Manchester has decreased slightly, according to figures released by the ONS today. However the overall drop in the region’s unemployment does not reflect the situation in areas such as Rochdale, where unemployment has actually risen.

The number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance in Greater Manchester is now 78,003, compared with 78,314 last time figures were released – down by 1%.

For the first time since the beginning of the year, the claimant count for Greater Manchester has dropped, which will no doubt bring some cheer to residents and businesses alike. However, with the unemployment levels in Rochdale and Tameside still creeping upwards, it is important that nobody takes their eyes off the ball regarding the economy; it may still get worse before it gets significantly better.

Quarterly Economic Survey - Q2 2009

by Ilona Krohn, Principal Economic Advisor

Last week we reported that Greater Manchester Chamber's QES showed that business confidence has improved after all the doom and gloom earlier this year.

You can now read the full report for yourselves - click here.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Apprenticeships campaign: case study

Our Summer Apprenticeships campaign focuses on making firms across Greater Manchester aware of the benefits an apprentice can bring to businesses of all sizes. As part of the campaign, we'll be looking at some case studies of successful companies who support apprenticeships and reap the benefits.

First up...

John Martin Painting Contractors
John Martin Painting Contractors is a keen supporter of apprenticeships. Over the years the Oldham-based business has taken on 30 apprentices and many of them are still with the firm today. Read more...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Pandemic flu - guidance for businesses

This booklet from the Department of Health explains how businesses can help reduce the spread of flu. It provides information to allow businesses to assess the types of measures that may be used in their particular occupational setting.

Briefed: the latest news from the Chamber website

People in the 25-49 age range are likely to be least badly affected by the recession
New analysis by economists at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) shows that some generations are being impacted much more severely than others due to changes in employment, household income and wealth.

Manchester’s train talks with transport minister ‘encouraging’
Transport bosses have held "constructive and encouraging" talks with Transport Minister Chris Mole over Greater Manchester's fight for additional train carriages.

PC Support Group sees increase in people looking to start own business
An IT company which has seen a 50 per cent rise in enquiries from potential franchisees as unemployment rates continue to soar is targeting people in Manchester who have recently been made redundant.

Success of North West firms recognised by the Prime Minister
Local companies from Manchester, Bolton, Oldham and Burnley joined 100 fellow exporters from across the UK at a reception at 10 Downing Street last week. They were invited to Number 10 by the Prime Minister in recognition of their business success in overseas markets and their contribution to the UK economy.

Chamber News: Reaction to Interest Rates Decision
Reacting to the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee's decision to hold interest rates at 0.5%, Ilona Krohn, Principal Economic Advisor at Greater Manchester Chamber, said...

NWDA welcomes Robert Hough as new Chair
The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) is pleased to welcome the appointment of Robert Hough (pictured above, right) as the new Chair of the NWDA.

Commenting on Chancellor Alistair Darling's proposals for the reform of UK banking regulations, Ilona Krohn (pictured, left) , Principal Economic Advisor for Greater Manchester Chamber, said...

Stephensons offer to recover debts for less
Stephensons, one of the North West's largest law firms, is offering businesses the opportunity to reclaim their debts for less, when they instruct on five or more cases.

BCC: Worst of recession is over but recovery is not guaranteed
The results of the Quarter 2, 2009 British Chambers of Commerce Economic Survey confirm that the worst of the recession is over.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Our partnership with Hambantota Chamber

Last month we told you about our win at the World Chambers Congress - taking home the prize for Best Networking Project in partnership with Hambantota District Chamber.

The award was given in recognition of our joint work to revitalise the region of Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka, an area that was seriously affected by the tsunami of 2004.

You can now find out more about the origins of the project, the hard work which has taken place and some of the major achievements of the four year partnership. You can also find out how your business can contribute to the next stages of the project. Please click here for details.

Have a good weekend!

Friday Guest Blog: How cloud computing can save costs on the ground

by Andy Barke, Google UK Ltd.

Move to ‘the cloud’, save costs on the ground

When times get tough, focusing on your core business is imperative. Cutting bottom-line costs to the business along with making operations run as efficiently and effectively as possible is one of the first steps towards shoring up your defences. In these tough economic times, ask any company if they could save £350 a year per employee and most likely they'd jump at the chance.

IT can be a big upfront cost and having to manage it on a daily basis can increase spend and distract you even further from your core focus - making money. Until now.

The small business approach to IT is being redefined by the Internet. Email, documents, calendars and other business communication tools are increasingly being delivered and hosted online via a trend known as ‘cloud computing’.

Cloud computing is a simple concept: applications and data are delivered over the Internet via a third party. It's a transformational, disruptive technology which is having a big impact on the way the world of IT works and the way businesses run IT. Cloud computing has many key benefits, but two stand out...


Cost savings
Once you’re hooked up to the web, the cost of buying licenses, purchasing servers and maintaining them is reduced because it’s possible to effectively ‘rent’ business applications from a third party. From a budget perspective, it brings predictable costs for IT and dramatically reduces spend on traditional desktop software. The Broadband Stakeholders Group (BBSG) estimates the online model would save companies £350 a year per person in support costs. If 30% of SME staff made the switch to cloud computing, the savings across the UK would total £620m a year.

Increased productivity
Secondly, there are productivity gains to be made from running your business via the cloud. Key to this is the shift towards a more collaborative way of working. We need to share information and work with others to get things done, and the Internet allows you to do this in a way that hasn’t been possible before:
  • a business owner in Leeds can chat with one of her managers working from London as they work on the same spreadsheet at the same time

  • an on-the-road sales team meets on a single document in the cloud to plan the next quarter’s budget

Getting access to information instantly, from wherever you might be, on whatever device you need it is crucial. After all, the geographical and mobile nature of business doesn’t change just because credit is harder to come by.

What about security?
Some small business owners could be hesitant to transfer their entire IT infrastructure to the cloud: hosting your data with a web-based provider can represent a shift in thinking about control and security of data. However, it is important to remember that the business of the key cloud computing providers who host the data depends on offering a secure environment for it. They invest more time and money in protecting their customers’ data than any small organisation could possibly afford; in fact, it is one of the most important factors considered when developing new products that handle personal and business data.

Over 1 million businesses are currently using our Google Apps productivity suite which provides online email, instant messaging, documents, video and much more. Many of these companies are small businesses who have seen that this model makes economic and business sense, making them more agile, flexible, competitive and innovative. The question is, have you?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Today's event: Social Media Masterclass

by Simon Cronin, Press & PR Officer

Thanks to everyone who came along to today's Social Media Masterclass with Nathan Smith of Smith & Smith PR, we hope you enjoyed it. Thanks also to Nathan for providing some valuable insights into the world of social media and for cutting through the jargon to give us some practical examples of the benefits for business.

As always, for those who missed it we'll be providing all of the useful materials, tips and info that Nathan touched on in his presentation, so please look out for that here on the Chamber blog.

I'd also like to make you aware that we are holding one-to-one Social Media surgeries with Tangerine PR on 17th September, here at the Chamber's Oxford Street offices. More details and information on how to book can be found on our Events calendar
-----------------
Today's event was the second of our free PR masterclasses; the first being the PR on a Budget event we held last month with Jo Leah of Weber Shandwick. You can read Jo's blog following the event and listen to the podcast if you click here.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Your networking tips

How do you make the most out of networking opportunities?

We're looking for your own networking tips or examples of successful networking events you've held yourselves to add to the Events section of the Chamber website.

Email your comments to Matt Hall.


Go to our Events Calendar

Monday, 6 July 2009

Briefed: the latest news from the Chamber website

Timebank initiative expands
Marketing, PR and IT firms are adding their expertise to the pioneering Timebank initiative designed to help Manchester businesses successfully navigate the recession.

Local entrepreneur and star of Dragon's Den, Imran Hakim (pictured right) was invited to a Downing Street reception last week. Gordon Brown and business secretary Lord Mandelson played host to 150 of Britain's most innovative entrepreneurs from a range of sectors at the special event.

PZ Cussons launches international Innovation Centre in Salford
Leading personal wash company, PZ Cussons, officially unveiled its new, purpose-built £26million Innovation Centre in Agecroft, Salford on 1st July.

Key 103 and Magic 1152 are encouraging Greater Manchester Businesses to donate bags of second hand clothing to help to raise funds of its official charity Cash for Kids.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) have launched a third programme to help the North West's R&D businesses target international markets, allowing them to develop global relationships and in turn secure future overseas investment in this vital sector.

Businessman Gerry Yeung, who runs the famous Yang Sing restaurant, is to be honoured by Manchester Metropolitan University.

BBC Radio Manchester is soon to launch a new business podcast from Tuesday 7th July.

October and November is the busiest time for electricity renewals and this surge in demand - when more than 50% of organisations renew contracts - usually causes prices to rise.
Chamber UtilitiesTM is advising members to start negotiations early to avoid falling victim to peak prices.
Visit http://www.gmchamber.co.uk/news for daily news updates from the Chamber, our members and partners.

Quarterly Economic Survey shows business confidence improving

by Ilona Krohn, Principal Economic Adviser

Greater Manchester Chamber's Quarterly Economic Survey is showing that business confidence has improved greatly.

Manufacturing
Overseas orders have improved for manufacturers and they have seen significant improvements in cash flow. However, indicators generally for manufacturing are much lower than this time last year with only 16% of companies reporting that they are working at full capacity compared with 33% this time last year.

Services
The figures for services were markedly better than manufacturing with 25% reporting that they are working at full capacity compared with 35% this time last year. The service sector reported slightly better than average results overall.

So our survey seems to reflect the fact that confidence is starting to return after all the doom and gloom earlier this year. We view this with caution however.

Feeling positive about the future is a vital first step for recovery, but the deep-seated loss of faith in the system as well as the underlying systemic problems remain and this might be only wishful thinking. Further bad news could easily collapse this timid recovery, which would lead to a much slower recuperation.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Friday Guest Blog: PR on a Budget

by Jo Leah, Managing Director, Weber Shandwick Manchester

Listen to the podcast version
















In a nutshell, PR is about relationship building and reputation management. Relationship building because you’re connecting with your customers and the media. Reputation management because you’re controlling the messages that are being put out there and what’s being said about you. And if you can’t control what’s being said about you, then at least you’re putting the facts across.

What can PR do for your business?

PR is about generating awareness and ultimately, making the phone ring. But it’s also important for people to have a sense of what you do and why you’re better than the competition. You can influence opinions through PR.

Our approach


  • What do you want to say?
  • Who do you want to say it to?
  • How will you say it?



In terms of what you want to say, have a think about your key messages, simplify them and relate them back to your brand. Then prove it! If you’re world-leading, substantiate it with facts and figures. If you’re a specialist, line up some case studies to show just how effective you are. You should really have no more than 4 –6 key messages at the most. These messages should consist of 8 or 9 word sentences that sum up what you want to get across and importantly, how can you substantiate that message? Then also, what is the benefit of your message and how can you make it meaningful to your audience.

This should help to inform who you want to speak to. Your initial answer might be everyone! But think about how you want to target your audience. It’s a question of getting the right media, whether this is The Times, a trade magazine, your local newspaper or something online like a popular blog or a Facebook group.

Now how will you say it? What tone do you want? Who is going to be the voice of the company? You should definitely have one. Some of the most successful companies have a very strong, charismatic leader. No matter what you think of Richard Branson, he has done an awesome job as the voice of Virgin and that’s enabled him to stretch that brand across so many sectors.

Your brand

One really useful exercise we go through with clients is to ask them to tell us about their brand and so often people start to talk about their logo. But a logo is just the icon for your brand. The brand is a set of perceptions in people’s minds. What do we think of that company? What do we assume about that company? A number of factors feed into your brand and in a nutshell, everyone in your organisation should be able to articulate what the brand is and where the business is heading.

At its most simple it’s the vision. What is it that you want your company to be? The ‘mission’ is how are you actually going to get there? This is the action plan, underpinned by the company values – what is it that you stand for? Knowledge? Expertise?

Then it’s important to think about what style and tone you want to adopt. This really helps when writing press releases, features, blogs or website content. You may want personality and humour or you might want to appear very cerebral and informative. Getting the tone right is the glue for all communications.

Then comes positioning. What is it that makes you different? How do you want to position your company?

And the proposition is the clever form of words that get people to buy into what you’re selling and realise what you’re all about. Think about how you can summarise it and get your communications moving.

Court of public opinion

People say to us “we need to talk to everybody” but practically, you can’t do that. You need to refine your audience. At any one time you should probably be talking to no more than six key audiences. So you may need to lobby government, you may need to talk to employees, you may need to talk to customers… and even in terms of your customer base you may want to break it down further and look at different groups and how you can approach them.

Also, what is the customer’s trigger? What is going to make them come to you to buy something?

Then you can decide what tactics you’re going to use. How are you going to strike up that conversation?

How?

This is where you get creative. What’s the big idea behind your press release? What’s the tactic that’s going to get people talking? What will make a journalist want to run that story?

In my experience, it’s always useful to have either a creative area in your office that you can go to talk through ideas and brainstorm or even go off-site, away from any distractions.

Your PR toolkit

So now putting your hard work into action. I’ve put together a PR Toolkit which can help you out with some of the basics on what a journalist might like to receive in their inbox, how to grab the headlines and some golden rules.
You can take a look at the PR Toolkit here

*Don't forget to listen to the full podcast of Jo's presentation including how to put together a winning press release and further explanation of the 'golden rules' of media relations.

Bite Size

Intended to suit small budgets, Bitesize provides SME's with a flexible approach to PR allowing them to choose a range of Weber Shandwick's tactical services, delivered by its team of Bitesize executives, without the worry of a long-term contract or in-depth strategies.
Contact
Hannah Roberts at Weber Shandwick on 0161 238 9405.

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